7 Great Health Benefits of Walking Dogs
January is Walk Your Dog Month. This month-long event encourages dog owners to make a commitment to walk their furry friends more often, providing numerous physical and mental benefits for both dogs and their owners. It’s an opportunity to promote canine health, strengthen the bond between dogs and their caregivers, and enjoy the great outdoors together.
Regular walks and exercise can help control your dog’s weight and limit the chances of them becoming obese. January may seem like a cold month in Canada to be placing emphasis on dog walking, but that’s why it is the right time to do it. Your dog needs walking all year round and if you can do it in January then you can do it all the time. Even a short walk around the block on a cold day makes a big difference.
And don’t forget that at Boundary Bay Veterinary Specialty Hospital, we also provide animal rehabilitation services (just like human physiotherapy) to help keep your pet walking and moving after surgery, injury, and as they get older, or we can also help with conditioning and strength training for athletic, agility and show dogs, or even just your couch potato.
So, get up off that sofa, get moving, and don’t let those sub-zero winter temperatures drag you down. Begin this year with a pledge — better health for you and your dog!
7 great health benefits of walking a dog:
1. Bonding experience
The human-pet bond is such a unique relationship. When you take the time to get out and walk your best mate, it’s a time to bond and experience a new environment. Naturally, this may be a chance to explore, adventure, and see something new, which is fun for you and your furry friend.
2. No screen time.
With so much day-to-day activity in front of a screen, a mental break is needed and gives your pup a chance to stretch its legs. The lack of screens also gives you the chance to focus on what is important during the walk. Keep your phone on you for safety reasons and to call someone only if necessary.
3. Mental stimulation.
One of the best health benefits of walking dogs provides is the versatile amount of mental stimulation for dogs. New experiences that take place beyond your front door or your backyard provide mental stimulation for your pup. For example, a walk to a nearby park is filled with new scenery, smells, and obstacles to explore.
4. Fresh air and exercise.
There’s nothing quite like getting outside and getting moving with your pets. Exercise and fresh air have a physical health benefit, as well as an emotional benefit. Consider starting with short walks and keep track of how you and your pup feel after each walk. Every walk can be a new adventure and a new opportunity to get moving to new places. Push yourself and your best friend for longer walk times and keep finding new places to explore.
5. Training opportunity.
Your dog walk could be used as a training opportunity. If you have a new puppy, one of the main health benefits of walking dogs for you might be the opportunity to work on basic leash and behavioral skills. If you find your dog is being particularly leash-reactive, this extra time may give you the opportunity to retrain. Walks can also give you an opportunity to focus on hand signals and commands with lights.
6. Keep tabs on pup’s health.
One of the most important health benefits of walking dogs is the opportunity to help keep tabs on your pup’s health. By walking your furry friends each day, you may spot a new behavior or something abnormal. Consider keeping a journal to track any unusual findings so you can follow up with your veterinarian with any concerns.
7. Bring the entire family on dog walks!
From a hiking adventure to an afternoon family stroll, the health benefits of walking dogs can help provide emotional, physical, and mental stimulation for the entire family. It can help provide connection, bonding, and versatile training environments that may provide rich fulfillment for your furry friends.
Be aware of your responsibilities when walking a dog.
As a dog owner you must supervise your dog at all times and ensure the dog is kept within calling distance and under control. It is in your best interest to provide your pet with obedience training and socialisation skills necessary to become a well-mannered and socially well-adjusted dog.
Prepare yourself for dog walking – in any weather.
- Make sure you can go the distance – stretch before you start. Stretch the front and back of your legs, your back and your arms. Wearing suitable walking shoes can also reduce injuries to feet and legs.
- Have the right equipment – make sure your leash is suitable for the weight of your dog, and pack enough dog waste bags, treats, portable water bowls, water, or any other equipment you might need. A mobile phone is always a good idea, just in case.
- Be weather wise – check temperatures, including humidex and wind chill ratings, as well as air quality indices before heading out. If you will be affected by the temperature or air quality, your dog will as well. Here are a few more tips about protecting you and your pet in hot or cold weather:
- Protecting yourself and your dog from excessive heat and sunburn – make sure you both drink plenty of water before, during and after your walk, walk during the cooler parts of the day when the weather is hot and protect yourself from the sun with a hat, long clothing, sunglasses, and sunscreen.
- Protecting yourself and your dog from excessive cold and frostbite – just like humans, frostbite is a dog’s natural process where blood is redirected from the body’s extremities to vital organs when there is a drop in body temperature. Areas that are furthest away from the heart (such as the tail, ears, nose, and paws) will experience a drop in blood flow, and this can cause tissue damage. Frostbite in dogs is not usually a life-threatening condition for pups alone. However, it is often followed by hypothermia, which can be fatal.
A warm dog winter coat, sweater, and boots will help minimize the risk, especially for short-coated breeds or older, more fragile animals. Keep winter walks short in extremely cold weather or find an indoor space to run.
Keep your dog in walking condition – the benefits of animal rehabilitation.
Animal rehabilitation can help keep your dog in walking condition – whether they are an already active dog that has had an injury or a dog that needs some extra conditioning. Under the caring leadership of our animal rehabilitation experts at Boundary Bay Veterinary Specialty Hospital, we offer a full range of animal rehabilitation services – from enhancing your pet’s recovery from orthopedic and neurological conditions, to reducing and managing chronic pain, to promoting health and wellness.
Similar to the benefits humans get from physiotherapy, animal rehabilitation can benefit pets in many different life stages and situations to help keep them moving and walking longer.
What kinds of pets benefit from animal rehabilitation?
- Post surgical patients
- Sporting dogs
- Agility dogs
- Senior pets
- Overweight pets
- Neurological patients
What kind of animal rehabilitation treatments do we offer?
CONDITIONING & STRENGTH TRAINING
Peak performance & health for athletic, agility and show dogs.
Build muscle strength and increase the range of motion in order to return to normal or to aid orthopedic/neurological conditions.
This non-invasive therapy offers pain relief and faster healing.
Designed to encourage affected limb use for those patients reluctant to use a limb after surgery.
Electrical currents to accelerate healing, slow muscle atrophy and build muscle mass during periods of inactivity.
Some last thoughts on the benefits of walking your dog.
Walking is one of the simplest, most accessible forms of exercise out there. It doesn’t require money to be spent on access to facilities like gyms, and it provides the opportunity to spend more time outdoors in the fresh air. A dog can be an incredible motivator for engaging in this form of exercise, as our pups help to create expectations and establish accountability. Even on days when you may not feel like moving from the couch, your dog patiently waits to hear ‘let’s go for a walk!’